Most would agree that, at least from a psychological perspective, men and women are different. How they act and think, their priorities, and how they interpret and react to situations can vary widely.
In fact, some researchers argue (although the debate’s still ongoing) that there are inherent differences in how men’s and women’s brains are wired. Men, for example, have been found to be better at singular tasks while women are better at multi-tasking.
Whether or the not the brain thing turns out to be true, still we can acknowledge they’re different. And it’s precisely these differences, the things that women do and men don’t, that makes it easier for them to transition to retirement. Of course there are exceptions, but this is the general rule, based upon a survey of more than 1400 retirees.
Here’s a few factors that account for their success. Women operate in more worlds at one time than men – they maintain a home, handle the couple’s social life, and have most of the responsibility for raising a family, besides having a job. By holding multiple roles, and being totally committed to each, women tend to give up only one aspect of their lives when they leave the workforce. So, retiring is not a complete shock to their system.
Women also place more value on certain aspects of day to day living, and these are especially helpful in retirement. More so than men, they’re passionately committed to their leisure and non-work activities, and regard these as personally rewarding. Women also put more effort into finding things of personal interest, are more successful in this quest, and generally are more open to new experiences.
Women also tend to be more socially integrated than men. They have more friends and are more emotionally connected to them. Their better-developed social lives can yield considerable enjoyment for them in retirement.
Taken together, the traits that women bring to daily living allow them to retain more structure and meaning in their lives when they retire. So, right out of the gate, they tend to be more motivated, and feel more productive, valued, and socially connected.
What it really all comes down to is women maintain multiple identities while still working – home-maker, socialite, friend, the glue for the family, etc. Men, in contrast, tend to have a singular identity – what they do for a living. Consequently, they’re at a greater disadvantage when they give up their jobs because the primary, and for some, the exclusive, way of defining themselves is no longer relevant.
Now, that’s not to say that every man is completely disconnected from every aspect of their lives that’s not work-related. It’s just that these other things often fall into the second tier in importance, and that may be just enough to make the retirement transition more difficult.
Eventually men catch up – after about 6 years in retirement men and women are equally satisfied with their lifestyles. But men can get to a better place faster if they follow women’s leads and make a few changes before they retire. For one, break the emotional link to their job and find ways to define themselves other than as employees. And plan in detail how you will use your time day by day, taking into consideration both activities and socializing with friends and family.
Keep in mind that our self-definition derives from the roles we play, and roles are determined by our actions. So, if you want to change how you define yourself, you first have to change what you’re doing and how you’re thinking, and be truly committed to whatever you decide to pursue.
Again, they get there eventually, but more up-front focus on these aspects of their lives might lead to a faster adjustment to the retirement lifestyle.
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